6 Things I Wish Others Understood About Passive Suicidal Thoughts
Sometimes there are people in your life who aren’t quite part of it, but they skirt the periphery enough for their life, or death, to have an impact on yours. This happened to me this morning when I learned someone peripheral to my universe had taken her own life. I am heartbroken for the people whose lives she had a greater impact on — her parents, her family, her friends and her clients. I’m not going to go into the factors that contributed to this sad event. There were many. What I am going to talk about is the stigma that still surrounds suicide.
There is no doubt we’ve come a long way when it comes to destigmatizing suicide and associated mental health issues, but we still have such a long way to go. It’s now easier to talk about suicide after it happens and to urge people to seek help if they are struggling with similar issues. There is always a call to action at the end of every article dealing with suicide or mental health that provides information regarding support services. We have RUOK Day (let’s not get into the discussion about that) and we encourage people to be more open about their struggles.
What’s not happening nearly enough is people talking about suicidal thoughts before they take hold and it becomes too late. It’s still something people don’t want to hear about. To some extent, this is understandable. It’s scary. It feels like a huge burden and responsibility to hear another human talk about ending their life. It feels like something we should stop and something we need to save people from. If we can’t, we’ve failed.
The guilt can be overwhelming. I’ve been on the other end of a phone trying to talk someone out of ending their life who is at the end of a rope. I know the feelings of desperation and powerlessness it causes. I know how uncomfortable a subject it is.
Here’s the thing, I think about taking my own life on a semi-regular basis. It’s something I have discussed with very few people. It’s something I’ve struggled to even talk to professionals about. Sometimes, I deal with those thoughts on a daily basis. Sometimes, it’s months between “episodes.” As a person who has experienced suicidal thoughts, there’s a few things I need you to know:
1. An alarming number of people experience what are known as passive suicidal thoughts.
For most of these people, the thoughts will likely never manifest into action. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t seek help. There’s obviously underlying issues that make them feel this way and those need to be addressed. If for no other reason, at least the person can have a more enjoyable life and them seeking help may be the thing that stops the idea from taking hold. If you have passive suicidal thoughts, then you are not alone.
2. I don’t talk about my suicidal thoughts for a number of reasons.
I don’t want to make other people feel responsible for my life. I don’t want to be accused of being an attention seeker. I don’t want other people to feel uncomfortable. Talking about suicidal thoughts, even with a professional, makes me feel like a failure. It makes me feel as if somehow I’m being ungrateful for all the good things I have in my life (of which there are many).
That’s what we need to understand. It’s not a simple equation. It’s not as easy as good things > bad things = lack of suicidal thoughts. There’s no magical amount of happy events that prevent suicide, just like there’s no specific amount of trauma that pushes someone to take their own life. It’s unlikely, as someone without professional training, that there’s any amount of words you can say to alter the course of someone who is committed to taking their own life. That’s why we need to be discussing it earlier before the resignation sets in.
3. The moments when my suicidal thoughts are at their loudest are when I am tired of struggling against the quicksand of life.
When everything from getting out of bed, to making the simplest of decisions, to answering a phone call seems like an insurmountable task. When the better option seems to be to stop struggling and allow myself to sink. It seems like the more peaceful option, the one that will use the least amount of energy. It’s never a major event that sets me off, it’s always a series of smaller things. Things that for someone who doesn’t suffer chronic depression may be manageable, but for me, they seem impossible.
4. I feel guilty experiencing these thoughts.
This is especially true when I have a wonderful husband, amazing kids, very supportive friends and family, a house to live in, a job that pays reasonably well and leaves me inspired every day, food to eat, water to drink and all the modern conveniences of living in a first world country. There’s a part of me that feels like I have no excuse to feel this way. That compared to other people who have overcome so much more, my depression and suicidal thoughts make me nothing but a pathetic, privileged white girl with no reason to complain, feel depressed or want to die.
Who does have the right to want to take their own life? People living in poverty? People who endure fresh trauma every day? At what point does it become OK to feel like death is the easier solution? At what point do others stop judging me as harshly as I judge myself? At what point does my sharing of my suicidal thoughts change from attention-seeking to understandable?
5. The thoughts on my mind are not what you think.
By talking about this, I know some people will see this as attention-seeking. They will see it as some sort of “poor me” exercise. They will think I want people to reassure me, pat my hand and tell me they’d be sad if something happened to me.
Those things could not be further from my mind when I am in the space of thinking about ending my own life. I’m not thinking about how many people will miss me or how large the attendance at my funeral will be. I’m not looking for reassurance that I am worthy, loved and everything is going to be OK. I’m purely and simply thinking about how I won’t have to be tired any more. I won’t have to struggle any more. It is most definitely not what I am thinking about as I write this post.
I am thinking about the things that stop me from taking my thoughts one step further, like my kids, my husband and the pain it would cause them. I’m thinking about my mum and the guilt she would feel thinking she had somehow failed me. I think about how me taking the final step might be the thing that pushes someone else over the edge. I think about how as long as I can keep talking about my suicidal thoughts when they happen I can keep them passive. I can stop them from taking control. Talking about them out loud means I am acknowledging how I feel. It means I can usually see how unreasonable the voice in my head is.
6. I’m thankful for those who listen.
I can not thank those special few who listen to my dark thoughts enough. By being brave enough to listen to even the deepest, darkest thoughts that come out of my brain, you save me more times than you will ever know. I know if I didn’t speak those thoughts out loud, they would just bounce around in my head and heart, getting stronger and stronger.
So I urge you all, be brave enough to look into the darkness. It’s not contagious. It can’t hurt you if you don’t let it. that drowns out everything else.
Don’t be afraid to say you have suicidal thoughts. You are not alone. You are not inherently bad. You are not a pathetic, privileged white girl who has no right to feel depressed. You are a fragile, beautiful human being with your own capacity for dealing with the darkness we face every day. Don’t judge yourself against other people.
If you’ve got no one in your life you feel you can speak to about your suicidal thoughts, then please seek assistance from one of the many highly qualified services available to Australians. The Beyond Blue website is a great place to start looking for resources to help.
This post originally appeared on The Medium.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.